TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a televised announcement on Monday evening (1700 GMT) in what his office said would be a “significant development” regarding the 2015 nuclear agreement between global powers and Iran.
No more details were given of the announcement, which will be made from Israel’s military headquarters in Tel Aviv, according to a brief statement from Netanyahu’s office.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a statement on a significant development regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran,” the statement said.
Prior to the announcement Netanyahu had convened his security cabinet for a surprise meeting and then canceled a speech in parliament.
Israeli news commentators speculated that Netanyahu planned to make public intelligence on supposed Iranian non-compliance in the nuclear deal, rather than announcing any imminent military action.
“The public can relax. The prime minister is not going to declare war,” said one senior official inNetanyahu’s coalition, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Netanyahu spoke by phone with U.S. President Donald Trump over the weekend about Iran, according to the White House.
A statement on Sunday said: “The two leaders discussed the continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East region, especially the problems posed by the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities.”
Netanyahu met in Tel Aviv with new U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday and both spoke in strong terms about Iran.
“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats towards Israel and the region,” said Pompeo.
Netanyahu said: “I think the greatest threat to the world and to our two countries, and to all countries, is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, and specifically the attempt of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.”
Trump has threatened to withdraw from the agreement reached between Iran and global powers, which granted Tehran relief from international economic sanctions in return for curbs to its nuclear program.
Israel has long opposed the agreement. Washington’s major European allies have urged the Trump administration not to abandon it and argue that Iran is abiding by its terms.
Iran is the foremost Shi’ite Muslim power in the Middle East. Israel has courted better ties with Sunni Muslim Arab states that also oppose Iranian influence.
Earlier on Monday Israeli lawmaker Michael Oren, a deputy minister in Netanyahu’s office in charge of public diplomacy, accused Iran of using the nuclear deal to help it “systematically” cleanse Syria of Sunni Arabs, and replace them with Shi’ites.
“One of the ways they are able to do this is through the Iran nuclear deal, which provides them with both the cash and the legitimacy to do it,” he said in Jerusalem.
“One of the ironies is that the cash that Iran gets from European deals it uses to cleanse Syria of Sunnis. And where do the Sunnis go? To Europe. Talk about a boomerang.”
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy organization said on Monday that Iran has the technical capability to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before the multinational deal was reached.
“Technically, we are fully prepared to enrich uranium higher than we used to produce before the deal was reached… I hope Trump comes to his senses and stays in the deal,” Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by Iranian state television as saying.
Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, though it neither confirms nor denies possessing atomic weapons.
Israel has also said it would do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from establishing a military front against it in Syria, though both countries recently played down prospects that they could go to war over Syria.
However, missile strikes against several government military bases in Syria on Sunday – which were not claimed by any party despite speculation in Israel that its military was responsible – underscored the risks of a wider escalation.
Israel has previously carried out strikes in Syria to stop Iran getting stronger there or transferring weapons to the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah. Israeli officials did not comment on Sunday’s missile strikes.
(Reporting by Rami Amichay, Stephen Farrell, Ori Lewis and Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Peter Graff and David Stamp)